I'm Sick of Ego

“I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting...

I'm sick of it. I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody."

--J.D. Salinger, from Franny and Zooey

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

16 thoughts on “I'm Sick of Ego”

  1. If you consult your superego, I think it will say that wanting to be a nobody is just as perverse as wanting to be a somebody. How 'bout transcending the whole question instead?

  2. I see that, though I do see something in this quote, though it is perhaps stated too strongly.

    For example, Brene Brown in her work on vulnerability talks about how many people are crippled by "the shamed-based fear of being ordinary."

  3. Amazingly, I just read the following before coming here, and I found it enormously freeing.
    "The plain fact is the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind ... And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it."

  4. In Larry James' new book The Wealth of the Poor he makes a very convincing argument that we all, rich, poor, whatever, gain meaning and significance through relationships united by the common desire to "develop community." If I understand him correctly, this means we get over ourselves when we become a part of the concern and action of God's kingdom on earth, an identity that transcends and transfoms ego-centered exsistence. Such identity, "booted up," turns the world upside down, It is quite costly and risky. "Love your neighbor as yourself, Thy kingdom come...Thy will be done," nag at our selfish, self-centered hearts. Fleshed out by the LIFE that gave up and gave because He LOVED, this way both takes and gives. It's the pearl of great price, the tresure found in a field, the seed that both dies and blossoms beyond our wildest dreams.

  5. I think it all depends upon how we unpack, theologically, the word "nobody." If "nobody" means thinking negatively of yourself then we'd have some problems. But if "nobody" means following Jesus' path of kenosis, becoming a "nobody" in loving service to others then we're getting to what I think is a deep truth: how our pursuit of self-esteem--wanting to be a "somebody"--keeps us from loving others.

    For more along these lines, see what I shared in this post with Josh Graves:


  6. Richard,
    I think you being a reader of Merton may recall how he wrote of the contradictions in his life, in the desire to write, to be an activist for peace, yet concerned that these were filling his ego more than Christ filling his life. I am paraphrasing of course, but I think that was the essence.

  7. Umm, would it not be wonderful if the X billion or so (intelligent, talented, caring) people who live dependently, meaning impoverishedly and exclusively reliant upon food aid that may or may not come depending on the corruption and militarism and tribal violence that surround them and that infest their governments, were "successful" at gaining a measure of economic self-determination and autonomy?

  8. People could also be successful at being "peacemakers, healers, storytellers" etc, but that's not what is meant by "successful as our culture has defined it." And I wouldn't, for these purposes, equate food security with personal success. The thing about this kind of success is it is so outside our control, whereas being a loving person is completely within one's control, regardless of whether they receive foreign aid or food stamps or happen to be "successful as our culture has defined it."

  9. Thanks for this, Richard. When Professor Peter Hawkins at Yale Divinity School asked for our favorite passage from a short story that we read last semester in his contemporary short fiction class, I chose the same quote. The link to your thoughts with Josh Graves is wonderful.

  10. I agree. And shame can be found on the other side: we can be ashamed to be identified with those whose striving for significance has disfigured their character--racists and bigots and chauvinists of all kinds. I think that Steinbeck spoke for the ironic nobility of commoners who have had the pride knocked out of them when he had Ma Joad say, "We are the people."

  11. I'd forgotten about this quote. And just how much I love it.

    I could tell a really long-winded story, but I'll spare you all. In short though, after family and work life, my main pursuit is singing and writing songs. But when we move moved out of the city and (back) into the country in 2008, I took the opportunity to downsize that enterprise, no more big fish in small pond, no more long or really late night road trips, no more working hard to get people in far off places to listen to records I made. Instead I played a few small shows here and there, and spent a lot of time running in the woods, and riding my bike. In the last couple years, my creative self has returned again but in a very different way. I have no long term goals, and no need to strive for bigger or better. I prefer my "absolute nobody" self.

Leave a Reply